Taper postpones 'Lieutenant of Inishmore'
The economy has claimed another play: Center Theatre Group is postponing until next year Martin McDonagh’s “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” part of its 2009 season at the Mark Taper Forum. Rather than name a show to take its place, the Taper will go dark after David Mamet’s “Oleanna” closes in July, CTG artistic director Michael Ritchie told Culture Monster.
“Oleanna” was itself a replacement show, moving into the slot held by “Uncle Vanya.” That production was scrapped when its intended star, Alfred Molina, bowed out due to scheduling conflicts. Ritchie said Tuesday that he didn’t want to insert a show with a smaller cast in the final slot “because we’d already done that with ‘Oleanna.’”
This is the first time the Center Theatre Group has dropped but not replaced a production in the Taper season (although CTG's Ahmanson Theatre went dark when it lost a pre-Broadway run of “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life” in 2005). “It is a show that is for us to do it right would cost us an extra $750,000 above what we could expect in income from ticket sales,” Ritchie said of “Inishmore.” “It’s in this season, but it’s in next fiscal year. So we’re planning the next season and we decided the move made more sense.”
Wilson Milam, who staged the 2006 Broadway production of the eight-character “Inishmore,” will direct at the Taper when the play goes up in 2010. No cast has been attached, Ritchie said, and that fact was taken into account when making the decision to postpone. Patrons holding tickets to the play can receive a refund or will be given a credit that they can use toward the purchase at any show at the three CTG theaters.
Ritchie emphasized that while the move was precipitated by concerns about the economy, CTG is financially stable — “and we want to keep it that way.”
Sales have been off by about 5%, he said, but CTG’s $20 ticket program has given box office a boost. “It’s been a great benefit to us. People who normally wouldn’t be coming to our shows because of the economy are buying, and yet it doesn’t seem to be drawing down from our regular priced tickets.”
In planning his 2010-11 season, Ritchie admitted he faces new challenges. “Finances are playing a bigger role than ever -- I have to pay more attention to that as I plan my season,” he said. "It’s more complicated than it’s been in the past. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever really been an issue before.”
Meanwhile, Ritchie says there have been “whispers of interest” regarding the CTG-Deaf West co-production of “Pippin” with hopes that it will follow the path taken by an earlier CTG-Deaf West collaboration, “Big River,” which moved from the Taper to Broadway in 2003.
As for “Oleanna,” which will star Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles, Ritchie said, “We’ve given ourselves the option” to extend the run, scheduled for May 28 to July 12. “We’ve got to get a little deeper in the show to see how we feel about the box office and beyond that whether or not it makes sense."
And what about Broadway? “It has a good shot,” he said. “I wouldn’t write that off.”
-- Lisa Fung
Top photo: Inside the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times. Bottom photo: Michael Ritchie. Credit: Thos Robinson / Getty Images